Friday, September 12, 2008

9-11 Seven Years Later

I didn't want to do the usual maudlin tribute to the victims of the World Trade Center attacks in 2001. I had to cover the anniversary, of course. It's news. But the story is what's happening today. The people who survived are dying.

Experts tell me that people exposed to the toxic plume resulting from the towers' collapse are seeing their health problems multiply at an alarming rate. They are not only the survivors of the attack, but the rescuers and even people who were there and tried to help.

What they breathed in, usually without any masks, was a potent, lethal combination of carcinogens and poisons that are causing asthma, tumors, and cancers that are usually considered quite rare.

And they're fighting to prove that they're sick because of the 9-11 attacks.

Politicians are beginning to get louder on the issue, calling for more programs to help them, more counseling, more money for medical aid. But so far that call isn't being answered quickly enough to help all the people who need it.

I spoke with Jim electrician from the Hudson Valley. He jumped in his car and drove to Manhattan on 9-11, just to do what he could to help. He's able to work now, but barely. He has asthma. He's had benign tumors removed from his brain. He says he has to fight to prove his health problems began after he worked digging through the rubble from the towers.

Tumors grow faster in people exposed to the plume. Their immune systems are compromised.

And federal aid earmarked for responders and survivors who live outside of New York isn't getting to them. An advocate told me Tommy Thompson and Logistics Health, the private contractors hired to administer the money, have swallowed up the money and it hasn't been seen since.

The Red Cross had millions of dollars for programs to help 9-11 victims. There were hundreds of programs. Seven years later, that money has run out. And those programs are shutting down.

And that's what's happening seven years after the Twin Towers were destroyed.

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